Environment Act 2021 – summary (UK)

The Act is not yet published, neither is any commencement order, nor any regulation.

The closest text is the text as introduced to the House of Lords – here. Note, Environment is a devolved matter, which means the bulk of the Environment Act 2021 provisions relate to England only.

Key points –

(1) the government must set long-term targets in priority areas for England (and may set other long-term targets) – by regulations – air quality, water, biodiversity, resource efficiency and waste reduction. The government must then review these targets in the context of the significant improvement test in section 6.

(2) the government must publish a statement of environmental principles, to be used in policy making.

(3) the government must publish a report (at specified intervals) on developments in international environmental law.

(4) an Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) must be established in England, to carry out certain scrutiny and advice functions. Schedule 3 deals with the OEP as respects Northern Ireland.

(5) Schedule 4 confers powers to make regulations on producer responsibility, replacing authority in earlier legislation which is revoked. Schedule 5 confers powers to charge for disposal costs.

(6) Schedule 8 confers powers to make regulations to create deposit schemes.

(7) Schedule 9 confers powers to make regulations about charges for single-use plastic items.

(8) the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is amended with provisions about the separate collection of recyclable waste in England – glass, metal, plastic, paper and card, food waste.

(9) the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is amended with updated provisions for hazardous waste in England and Wales.

(10) the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 is amended with updated provisions for hazardous waste.

(11) the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is amended with updated provisions for transfrontier waste shipment.

(12) the government may make regulations to recall vehicles or engines on environmental grounds (section 73).

(13) the Water Resources Act 1991 (applicable England and Wales) is amended to require sewerage undertakers to publish and maintain a drainage and sewerage management plan. These provisions were strengthened slightly following consideration in the House of Lords (final Act text not yet published).

(14) the government (and the relevant authorities in the devolved administrations) may make regulations to change water quality standards.

(15) Schedule 14 provides for biodiversity gain to be a planning condition.

(16) the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 section 40 duty to conserve biodiversity (England) is substantively enhanced.

(17) local authorities in England must publish biodiversity reports at specified intervals.

(18) there must be more local nature recovery strategies so that they cover the whole of England.

(19) Natural England is empowered to publish a strategy for improving the conservation status of any species of flora or fauna (a special conservation strategy).

(20) Natural England is empowered to publish a strategy for improving the conservation and management of a protected site (a protected site strategy).

(21) local authorities in England must consult before felling street trees.

Environment Act 2021 (UK)

The long awaited Environment Act 2021 finally received its royal assent on 9th November. The government press release is here.

The document is not yet published, and its provisions will need to be commenced. The detail will be in Regulations, which are not yet available.

I had written extensively when the document was first promulgated, and I will write further blog posts on the subject once the Act is published and we see the provisions that are commenced now.

Environment Bill (announced additions) (UK)

The long awaited and highly significant Environment Bill is revived in the current Parliament session. I Blog posted earlier that it would be.

The UK government has made 3 announcements in May –

(1) new legal duties on water companies and the government will be inserted to reduce sewage discharged into waterways – announcement is here

(2) a new additional legally binding target for species abundance for 2030 will be inserted – George Eustice Speech is here

Environmental targets in the Bill are summarised in the October 2020 updated August 2020 policy paper – here.

(3) a new power will be taken to refocus the Habitats Regulations – see George Eustice Speech

[The George Eustice Speech also makes further announcements on consultation and strategy publication in the areas of Nature, Peat and Trees.]

The Bill, as we see it now, was originally revived from the previous May Government after the 2019 general election.

In 2020, the majority of the 2019-2020 Bill provisions were substantially the same as its predecessor, although a number of minor technical changes had been made to the drafting. The substantive additions to the Bill (at the start of 2020) were :

• a requirement on Ministers to make a statement to Parliament setting out the effect of new primary environmental legislation on existing levels of environmental protection (Clause 19); and

• a requirement on the Secretary of State to conduct a two-yearly review of the significant developments in international legislation on the environment, and to publish a report on their findings every two years (Clause 20).

The Commons Library analysed the Environment Bill in March 2020 – here.

Most of the Bill extends to England and Wales and applies in England. There are some parts that extend to the whole of the UK or apply to specific UK nations. For example, there are specific provisions on environmental governance, managing waste and water quality that extend and apply to Northern Ireland only. Provisions on waste including producer responsibility, resource efficiency and exporting waste extend and apply to the whole of the UK, as do the provisions on environmental recall of motor vehicles, and the provisions on the regulation of chemicals.

Note – DEFRA has current consultations relating to the Environment Bill –

(1) Consultation on the Draft Policy Statement on Environmental Principles – here.

(2) Consultation on Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (a Deposit Return Scheme is already legislated for in Scotland) – here.

Plastic Bag Charge in law (England)

The legislation increasing the plastic bag charge in England was enacted yesterday 20 May, and comes into force today 21 May – this legislation is here. [I blog posted about this before]

It will be added to those Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists that monitor the Plastic Bag Charges. It amends the existing 2015 Order (the Carrier Bags Order).

[Separate legislation in Scotland, already added, has already increased the charge in Scotland.]

Article 3 amends the Carrier Bags Order by omitting the expiry date of 5th October 2022 in article 1(d), by which that Order would have ceased to have effect. Articles 6, 7, 10 and 11 make amendments to the Carrier Bags Order consequential on the omission of the expiry date.

Articles 4 and 8 amend the Carrier Bags Order in order to substitute a new definition of “seller”. This brings all sellers of goods under the obligation to charge in article 3 of the Carrier Bags Order and restricts the obligation relating to records in article 4 of, and Schedule 3 to, that Order to sellers within the meaning given in Schedule 1.

Article 5 amends the Carrier Bags Order in order to increase the minimum charge for each single use carrier bag (SUCB) supplied in a reporting year from 5 pence to 10 pence.

Article 9 amends the definition of SUCB in Schedule 2 to the Carrier Bags Order by amending the list of “excluded bags” in the table.

The effect of this is –

(1) The single-use carrier bag charge is increased to 10 pence and extended to all retailers in England from today (21 May). This includes small, medium and micro retailers (including airport retailers).

(2) An extra 10 pence is not chargeable if a charge of 10 pence or more is already charged for bags.

(3) Biodegradable bags are not exempt from the charge.

(4) Carrier bag use records or reports do not need to be made if the company employs fewer than 250 staff.

Changes to Energy Labels and Ecodesign (UK)

UK guidance changed to confirm that (effective 1st March) EU type re-scaled energy labels would apply throughout the UK, not only in Northern Ireland (via the IRL/NI Protocol). This was in yesterday’s monthly email alert.

The law has still to catch up, but today the BBC confirms (1 March) EU repairability and spare parts obligations will be applied in Britain. They anyway applied in Northern Ireland (Protocol).

The specific product EU Law in this area is in the form of EU Regulations directly applicable in member states (and Northern Ireland via the Protocol).

The BBC link is here.

A consultation was held (closing date November 2020) – here.

Energy labels apply to a list of mainly white household goods, but also computer screens. Ecodesign stipulations apply to a wider list of electric and electronic products.

Plastic Waste Shipment (EU)

On 22nd December 2020 the EU adopted new rules on the export, import and intra-EU shipment of plastic waste – here. [these changes are not yet in the CONSLEG consolidated law version uploaded on Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklist, and the updated law will be added shortly]

The new rules ban the export of plastic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries, except for clean plastic waste sent for recycling. Exporting plastic waste from the EU to OECD countries and imports in the EU will also be more strictly controlled.

The new rules entered into force on 1 January 2021. They apply to exports, imports and intra-EU shipments of plastic waste: [see below per the EU news announcement]

Exports from the EU

• Exporting hazardous plastic waste and plastic waste that is hard to recycle from the EU to non-OECD countries will be banned.

• Exporting clean, non-hazardous waste (which is destined for recycling) from the EU to non-OECD countries will only be authorised under specific conditions. The importing country must indicate which rules apply to such imports to the European Commission. The export from the EU will then only be allowed under the conditions laid down by the importing country. For countries which do not provide information on their legal regime, the “prior notification and consent procedure” will apply.

• Exporting hazardous plastic waste and plastic waste that is hard to recycle from the EU to OECD countries will be subject to the “prior notification and consent procedure”. Under this procedure, both the importing and exporting country must authorise the shipment.

Imports into the EU

• Importing hazardous plastic waste and plastic waste that is hard to recycle into the EU from third countries will be subject to the “prior notification and consent procedure”. Under this procedure, both the importing and exporting country must authorise the shipment.

Intra-EU shipments

• The “prior notification and consent procedure” will also apply to intra-EU shipments of hazardous plastic waste, and of non-hazardous plastic waste that is difficult to recycle.

• All intra-EU shipments of non-hazardous waste for recovery will be exempt from these new controls. 

These new rules amend the EU’s Waste Shipment Regulation (EU Waste Transhipment Regulation) and implement the decision taken by 187 countries in May 2019 at the Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention. This Basel decision set up a global regime governing international trade in plastic waste for the first time, by including new entries on plastic waste in the Annexes of the Convention.

The EU ban on exports outside the OECD of plastic waste that is difficult to recycle, goes further than the requirements of the Basel Convention.

[Note: the UK is outside the EU, it did update its International Waste Shipment Regulation to incorporate a prior notification and consent process effective 1st Jan 2021 – see Cardinal Environment Registers and Checklists – but it did not implement a ban on exports of plastic waste to non-OECD. DEFRA – The government had “pledged to ban the export of all plastic waste to non-OECD countries”, but no timetable for action exists. Research is commissioned to better understand existing UK plastic waste recycling capacity and DEFRA would consult in due course on how to deliver its manifesto commitments.]

Happy New Year!

Here we go, 1st Jan 2021, and the start of the new rules for EU-UK trade.

(new 1st Jan) GB Cardinal Environment EHS Registers & Checklists (ENV) are being uploaded in alphabetical order, some have already been uploaded, uploading is taking place today, and will take a further 5-7 calendar days to complete. Any questions, please email me.

Northern Ireland Cardinal Environment EHS Registers & Checklists (ENV) will be next.

The December Email Alert will be issued on Monday 4th Jan, so look out for it in your inboxes on that day.

A couple of new items to note :

(1) the UK government issued a 31st Dec update (159 pages with worked examples) to its border model – here.

(2) the UK government issued a 3 month temporary approach to sending parcels to Northern Ireland from Britain – here.

(3) the UK government issued an unofficial list of waste codes for international shipping (note the List of Waste codes for domestic movement is found in WM3) – here.

(4) the UK government updated more of its guidance (notably data) to incorporate the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement – the Brexit Guidance List in Cardinal Environment EHS Registers & Checklists.

(5) Stena, who manage Holyhead port, report they turned away 6 freight lorries carrying goods to Ireland so far this morning because the Ireland-required Pre-boarding Notification (PBN) had not been completed – this Blog does not focus on customs – the Irish Revenue link is here.

COVID-19 EA Regulatory Position Statements (England)

I posted before about the Environment Agency’s Regulatory Position Statements (RPS), and the fact that the Agency is publishing RPS for the COVID-19 crisis.

Yesterday 21st April, the EA has issued further COVID-19 RPS. Here

You will note there are now quite a few of them.